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Damaging winds and penny-sized hail expected; thunderstorms to hit four Massachusetts counties on Saturday

The National Weather Service issued an updated severe weather warning at 3:35 p.m. on Saturday, valid until 4:15 p.m. for Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcester counties.

The storms bring hailstones the size of penny-sized particles (1.9 cm) and wind gusts of up to 96 km/h.

“At 3:34 p.m., severe thunderstorms were observed along a line extending from near Rutland through Palmer to Somers, moving east at 30 mph,” the weather service said. “Expect damage to roofs, siding and trees.”

Places affected by the warning include Worcester, Framingham, Enfield, Marlborough, Shrewsbury, Westborough, Grafton, Holden, Webster, Southbridge, Ashland, Auburn, East Longmeadow, Northbridge, Ellington, Hopkinton, Belchertown, Wilbraham, Northborough and Oxford.

According to the weather service: “For your protection, move to an indoor location on the lowest floor of a building. These storms produce torrential rain that may cause flash flooding. Do not drive your vehicle through flooded streets.”

Preparing for impending lightning strikes: Safety recommendations from experts

Lightning strikes occur about 25 million times each year in the United States, with the majority of these electrical discharges occurring during the summer months. Tragically, lightning strikes claim the lives of about 20 people each year, according to the Weather Service. The risk of lightning strikes increases as thunderstorms approach, peaking when the storm is directly overhead. However, it gradually subsides as the storm recedes.

To ensure your safety during a thunderstorm, follow these recommendations:

1. Lightning protection plan:

  • If you are outdoors, it is important to have a lightning protection plan.
  • Stay alert by watching the skies for ominous signs and listening for the telltale sound of thunder. If thunder is audible, it is a clear sign of lightning nearby.
  • Find a safe shelter, preferably indoors.

2. Indoor safety measures:

  • Avoid using corded telephones, electrical appliances or plumbing indoors and stay away from windows and doors.
  • Lightning can follow conductive paths and these precautions reduce the risk of electrical surges.

3. Wait for the all-clear:

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightning strike or clap of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.
  • Remember that lightning can still strike even after a storm appears to have passed, so be careful.

If no shelter is available in the house:

If you are outdoors during a thunderstorm and do not have access to shelter, take the following steps to maximize your safety:

  • Avoid open fields, hilltops or mountain ridges where the risk of lightning strikes is greater.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated trees and other prominent objects. In forested areas, stay close to lower stands of trees.
  • If you are traveling in a group, make sure that everyone is spread out to prevent lightning current from being transmitted between people.
  • It is strongly discouraged to camp outdoors during a thunderstorm. If there is no alternative, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember that a tent does not provide protection from lightning strikes.
  • Do not approach bodies of water, wet objects, or metal objects. Although water and metal do not attract lightning, they are good conductors of electricity and can pose significant risks.

In summary, vigilance and preparation are your best allies when you are at risk of being struck by lightning. By following these guidelines, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of lightning accidents and put your safety first.

Rain showers on the roads: Important safety tips for heavy rain

Rain can make roads dangerous. Stay informed and follow these weather service tips to stay safe during heavy rain:

Be careful with fast water flow:

  • Avoid parking or walking in close proximity to culverts or drainage ditches, as fast-flowing water may sweep you away during heavy rain.

Keep the safety distance:

  • Use the two-second rule to maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you, and add an additional two seconds in heavy rain.

Slow down and be careful:

  • When it is raining and the roads are wet, slow down. Take your foot off the accelerator and reduce the speed gradually. Never brake suddenly, otherwise the car may skid.

Choose your lane carefully:

  • Stay in the middle lanes as water often collects in the outside lanes.

Prioritize visibility

  • Improve your visibility in heavy rain by turning on your headlights. Pay particular attention to vehicles in your blind spot, as rain-smeared windows can obscure them.

Be careful on slippery roads:

  • During the first half hour of rain, the roads are most slippery due to a mixture of rain, dirt and oil. Be especially careful during this time.

Keep a safe distance from large vehicles:

  • Large trucks and buses can reduce your visibility with tire spray. Avoid following them too closely and overtake them quickly and safely.

Pay attention to your windshield wipers:

  • Overloaded wiper blades can reduce visibility. If rain severely reduces your visibility, pull over to the side of the road and wait for conditions to improve. Seek shelter in rest areas or sheltered areas.
  • If you can only stop at the side of the road, position your vehicle as far from the road as possible, ideally behind guard rails. Leave your headlights on and activate your hazard lights to alert other drivers to your position.

In heavy rain, these precautions can go a long way to keeping you safe on the road. Remember to check weather conditions and follow the instructions of local authorities to ensure a safe journey.

Advance Local Weather Alerts is a service from United Robots that uses machine learning to compile the latest data from the National Weather Service.

Anna Harden

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